Date of Award
Master of Natural Resources (MNR)
Environment and Society
The Seep Ridge road is the major route used to access the Book Cliffs from Uintah County. For many years the County has expressed interest in paving the road in order to improve access to this remote portion of the County. In 2011 Uintah County received Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval for the project and began construction on the road. There have been many concerns expressed concerning the Seep Ridge Road paving project, including impacts to mule deer. The Utah Division of Wildlife, sportsmen and conservation groups are concerned that upgrading the road may lead to a decline in the Book Cliffs Deer herd. This paper will serve as Part I to my Capstone project and will detail the objectives and methods to be used in Part II. The objectives of this study include establishing baselines for deer vehicle mortality and vehicle volume and speed along the Seep Ridge Road pre-construction. In addition to this I have evaluated public perceptions, reviewed policies and assessed the economic impacts associated with the paving project.
Without proper mitigation, realigning and paving 29 km (18 mi) of the Seep Ridge Road (SRR) in the Book Cliffs of Utah could potentially contribute to a decline of the mule deer herd in the area. As such I have initiated a study to record baseline data for deer vehicle collision (DVC) rates and vehicle speed and volume prior to completion of the paving project. Along with this I have compared the number of deer carcasses resulting from DVC’s that were observed from the road during weekly deer counts to the number of carcasses found immediately outside the view shed of the road. This comparison was intended to provide a correction factor that could be used to more adequately estimate DVC’s. Over the course of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) Book Cliffs deer study (see Part 1 of this Capstone) biologists found approximately 0.45 DVC/km (0.28 DVC/mi) during road counts. More intensive DVC searches along the SRR as part of my study did not find that DVC numbers were any greater than the UDWR counts suggest. The relatively low DVC rate may be due in part to the slow travel speeds along the SRR (~87% at or below 35mph) prior to paving the road. In conclusion it was determined the pre-construction conditions of the SRR did not significantly contribute to the decline of the Book Cliffs deer population. With this understanding and the establishment of baseline data future research should be able to identify any change in the number of DVCs that occurs as a result of the SRR paving and realignment project.
Hansen, D. Alex, "A Pre-Paving Baseline Inventory of Vehicle-Related Mortality on Mule Deer along, Seep Ridge Road, Book Cliffs, Utah" (2012). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 359.